On June 26th, passengers on public buses in Lattakia, Syria, were surprised when on boarding the buses, they heard live music. The buses are normally crowded with people going to all sorts of different destinations. The musicians, playing their instruments, turned the buses, which are normally just a means of transport, into moving theatres, where visitors paid no charge for their entertainment. The entertainers provided different types of music and arts performances and passengers were able to enjoy live music, singing and different types of theatrical display.
In order to celebrate International Music Day, Al Bait al Arabi Li Mosiqua (Al Arabic House of Music) with the Ministry of Culture, the Internal Transportation Company, the Syrian Trust, Hala Radio and others organised the event, called “The Cultural Bus”. On that day, five buses on different routes became the venues for different cultural performances. Three buses had musical performances and singing, one bus had short theatrical plays and another bus showed short movies of youth in cooperation with the Cinema General Organisation.
Yasser Drebati, the Arabic House of Music Manager in Lattakia said, “We wanted to present music, theatre, singing and cinema on a new platform (the internal public buses) and it is the first experience in which singing and theatrical performances have been experienced on buses.” He adds, “The importance is that art reaches the audience instead of the other way around, it is a kind of positive involvement and engagement for audiences in watching and experiencing art away from the traditional cultural centres.”
The scripts of the performances were written by the young actors themselves and their performances covered the embodiment of ambitions, the pain of youth and young people’s attempts to tackle important issues in society.
On the buses, most people started to applaud in response to the music and the singing. Some began to sing along while the musicians were playing, and they sang traditional Syrian songs together. Others just watched and smiled, while some took photos and shared them on social media.
It was the talk of the day, and people interacted on social media and commented with appreciation and encouragement. One example was: “Joy suits Lattakia”. Some however expressed their discontent, leaving negative comments, for example saying that the buses were already crowded.
One of the musicians stated that most of the passengers engaged fully with the fun, the happiness and the joy. Some Syrian actors who were there, showed their support for the event and considered it to be a great gesture as a celebration and an encouragement to joy, art and music. The singing of traditional popular songs in particular, raised issues that relate to Syrians, as did some songs written by Syrian youth themselves as a pure reflection of life in Syria. The manager of the event said that this initiative was about bringing art to the audience, whoever they were and that it was a new experience, which could be repeated in other cities in the future.
Osaimah, one woman from the audience, said “I was on my way to the bus when I heard music and singing. I got on the bus and it filled my heart with happiness that those artists were playing music. I started singing with them and the time passed quickly. I am proud of what they did, they drew smiles in our hearts and faces. I am glad I got on the bus that day.”
The attempt to spread appreciation of art and to celebrate music in such a spontaneous way was one of the attempts by Syrians to create a positive atmosphere at all times. There are so many different people of all ages and backgrounds on buses and introducing them to art and making them part of this celebration is a powerful gesture, putting smiles on their faces before their hearts, is a Syrian spirit and is a sign of the shared love in the world and that everybody can celebrate and enjoy music, even on buses. The event turned the buses into small moving theatres, which enabled everyone to hear music, to enjoy and to be part of International Music Day.